When I was about 35, my grandmother handed me an envelope full of teeth — real, live, actual teeth. She had saved every single one of my baby teeth, and it was so sweet and sentimental. And creepy.
Now, my six year old is losing his teeth left and right. He’s going to have to start drinking his dinners through a straw. We’re at that notable “first grade” stage when they all have this kind of spitty, hillbilly, snaggletooth look about them. I mean, it’s cute and all, but it’s pretty funny-looking too. You know?
My little guy lets those itty-bitty wigglers hang on for weeks and weeks. He’s too afraid to pull them out, so they just dangle until they don’t have anything left to hang on to. His father and uncle and grandfathers all seem to love offering up violent, anxiety producing options for tooth-removal: hammers; race cars on a string; a good, hard punch to the jaw. They inevitably fall out on their own, though. He’s lost two at taekwondo, one at school, and one on a straw. That last one was was so loose, a little apple juice popped it right out.
We are dutiful. We follow all of the traditions. At school, he got the cute little glow in the dark tooth necklace from his teacher. He got to sign the paper tooth and put it on the tooth tree in the nurse’s office. We ceremoniously put each tiny tooth in the little embroidered tooth pillow at night. Sometime during the evening, or early in the morning if she’s feeling a little forgetful, the tooth fairy sneaks in and exchanges the tooth for two bucks. (I took a poll, and it looks like that’s the going rate for teeth these days. If it’s more in your neighborhood, don’t tell my kid, or we can’t be friends.)
But, I didn’t realize that the tooth fairy returns the teeth. Apparently, they don’t just up and disappear. Now, I’m stuck with all these teeth, and I don’t have any idea what to do with them. It wasn’t in the handbook.
I know I need to throw them away. (I think I need to throw them away.) (Do I need to throw them away?) I’m having a little trouble throwing them away.
In other circumstances, I’m actually very good at getting rid of things. I’m not super sentimental about “stuff.” Making a run to the Goodwill donation center seems to be perpetually on my husband’s “honey-do” list. Old clothes: out! Old toys: gone! If I don’t absolutely love it, I get rid of it.
But, I absolutely love these teeth.
I remember that sweet, drooly toothless grin that used to look up at me. I remember the feeling of my little guy gnawing on my finger with his soft, wet gums. I remember when every single one of those tiny fangs grew in. I remember how miserable my poor baby was every time he put his head down when he was teething. I remember the sleepless nights, the runny diapers, the fevers. I remember how hard he had to work to grow those sharp little chompers. I loved that baby. I loved those baby teeth. And now, one by one, they’re falling out. And he’s getting these great big grown-up teeth. He’s growing up. And I could just cry about it.
I know that they’re teeth, which are basically just like little bones with nerve endings and bits of DNA on them. It is a little creepy, but I just can’t seem to throw them away. For now, I guess I’ll put them in an envelope.
Maybe I’ll give them back to him when he’s 35.
Until then, what are you doing with your little one’s baby teeth?